Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Yellow School Buses

Yellow school buses

This a.m. was gorgeous—bright sun, incredible blue sky, little or no wind—I know that’s hard to believe in Wyoming, but it was true—and the temperature above 35. The only thing to have made it more perfect would have been walking with Joanne rather than by myself. Nonetheless, I walked my loop twice, which means a whopping three miles, up small hills and down again.

During the first round, a group of kids was standing on the corner of the loop and Westedt, waiting for the school bus. About that same moment, the big yellow bus stopped on the road, put out its stop sign, and the little darlings rushed across the road and climbed onto the bus. Then, the bus turned the corner and began moving toward me. As it passed, the bus driver and I waved at each other. Just watching the yellow bus drive by made me think of my own days of having to ride the school bus.

For the majority of my grade school, junior high, and high school life, I rode a school bus, the big Blue Bird. I lived three miles from my first elementary school, seven miles from junior high, three miles from my 9th grade building (we were alone in the Midway Junior High School), and seven miles in the other direction from my high school. While most days were dull and boring, filled with chattering kids, completing homework assignments due the moment we arrived, and a watchful bus driver who constantly looked in his mirror, there were some days more poignantly precious than others.

The first real episode that I vividly remember was the day that our bus passed a truck on the Snake River Bridge that separated Menan and Roberts. Our 7th-8th grade junior high building was located in Roberts. Each day we had to cross the mighty Snake River over a rickety bridge with huge girders. Back in those days, it wasn’t the most accommodating bridge in the world. In fact, only one vehicle was allowed on the bridge at one time. Our bus was pretty big or at least it was pretty big to an 8th grader like me.

That day was unforgettable. We were trundling our way to school, and our bus driver approached the Snake River Bridge and started across, thinking we were the first ones there; thus, we had the right-a-way. Just then, at the other end, a truck entered the bridge just after we did. Apparently, he wasn’t paying attention or didn’t care that a bus load of kids was already crossing the bridge. Most of us weren’t paying attention until our bus driver slowed way down to almost a crawl. The truck didn’t back off and kept coming.

So, in the middle of the bridge we passed, almost like in slow motion. All of us clamored out of our seats and glued our faces to the windows on the left side of the bus. I think had we weighed more than we did, we probably would have toppled the bus into the truck. Each vehicle inched its way by the other. Had we been brave—maybe the operative word is stupid—we could have reached and literally touched the truck. That’s how close we were. Some of the kids opened the windows and yelled out crazy stuff. I am sure they were just as scared as I was.

It seemed forever as we passed the truck. Our bus driver had previously reached out and pulled her mirrors in as closely to the bus as possible. Even with that, our mirrors almost touched. For a moment, I surely thought we would be scraping metal on metal, truck on bus, railing on bus and truck. Some of us even thought we would be pushing each other over the bridge and into the Snake, not a good thought considering the Snake has so many undercurrents, and the windows weren’t that big, perhaps big enough for 7th graders to crawl through. I didn’t know about 8th graders.

Well, we passed each other finally. Once across the bridge, we all breathed a sigh of relief and began a ruckus only a group of 7th and 8th graders could muster. Our bus driver was a hero. And we let her know that. Inside, though, I surely didn’t want that to ever happen again. On subsequent days, we may have yelled just before approached the bridge, “Hey, is there a truck coming?”

Another time that is vivid is when I was probably a sophomore and traveling from Menan to Rigby. We always said that we were forced buses to Rigby because we didn’t have a high school in Menan. It was always one of those boring trips until I saw my first bag of marijuana on that bus. Some kid from Lewisville or Grant, I think maybe a junior or senior, pulled the bag out of the front of his pants. We gathered around like sheep. To me, it looked like a bag full of manure that we used to spread on our garden. He was pretty proud of himself. I was too shocked to think that someone would actually pull something like that out and show the rest of the crowd. Geez, we were on a public school bus. Surely, the bus driver could tell something was going on with everyone quiet for a moment or so. But I didn’t say a word. He put it back down his pants. Who knows what happened to him or the marijuana. And I really didn’t care.

One of the most fun things we did on the bus was play field goals. What we would do is fold up paper like a football. I guess you could say that the “football” looked more like a love note we used to write in fifth and sixth grade, only smaller. Then, someone would hold their palms out in front, with the thumbs touching—all of which resembled the uprights of a goal post. By flicking the paper football with our finger, like teachers sometimes flicked our heads if we weren’t paying attention, you could propel the ball toward the uprights. Just like in a real game, if the football went through, you scored a point.

Ah, many other stories clamored forward about riding a bus this a.m., but these three rushed to my memory banks when I saw the yellow school bus pass me on my walk. Amazingly, I could still feel the rush of air and the clamor of 7th and 8th graders as we passed the truck. I wonder if the rest of my compadres remember that morning. Whew!

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